We examined the functional role of two major proximal leg extensor muscles of tammar wallabies during level and inclined hopping (12 degrees, 21.3% grade). Previous in vivo studies of hopping wallabies have revealed that, unlike certain avian bipeds, distal hindlimb muscles do not alter their force-length behavior to contribute positive work during incline hopping. This suggests that proximal muscles produce the increased mechanical work associated with moving up an incline. Based on relative size and architectural anatomy, we hypothesized that the biceps femoris (BF), primarily a hip extensor, and the vastus lateralis (VL), the main knee extensor, would exhibit changes in muscle strain and activation patterns consistent with increased work production during incline versus level hopping. Our results clearly support this hypothesis. The BF experienced similar activation patterns during level and incline hopping but net fascicle shortening increased (-0.5% for level hopping versus -4.2% for incline hopping) during stance when the muscle likely generated force. Unlike the BF, the VL experienced active net lengthening during stance, indicating that it absorbs energy during both level and incline hopping. However, during incline hopping, net lengthening was reduced (8.3% for level hopping versus 3.9% for incline hopping), suggesting that the amount of energy absorbed by the VL was reduced. Consequently, the changes in contractile behavior of these two muscles are consistent with a net production of work by the whole limb. A subsidiary aim of our study was to explore possible regional variation within the VL. Although there was slightly higher fascicle strain in the proximal VL compared with the distal VL, regional differences in strain were not significant, suggesting that the overall pattern of in vivo strain is fairly uniform throughout the muscle. Estimates of muscle work based on inverse dynamics calculations support the conclusion that both the BF and VL contribute to the additional work required for incline hopping. However, on a muscle mass-specific basis, these two muscles appear to contribute less than their share. This indicates that other hindlimb muscles, or possibly trunk and back muscles, must contribute substantial work during incline hopping.
McGowan, C PBaudinette, R VBiewener, A AengComparative StudyResearch Support, Non-U.S. Gov'tResearch Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.England2007/03/21 09:00J Exp Biol. 2007 Apr;210(Pt 7):1255-65.